Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you
Here are our key takeaways from the February 9th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
Top 4 Key Takeaways
1. Discussion with Legislators: During the Work Session, the Board was joined by the Alabama House of Representatives Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen and Minority Leader Anthony Daniels. This is part of an effort to increase communication between the State Board and the Legislature.
In their remarks, both Leaders put a heavy emphasis on the need for a plan to help the schools in the state that are struggling the most, including those in rural communities and those with high concentrations of students in poverty. They both also emphasized the need for expanded workforce career pathways for students, including dual enrollment and credentials, where students leave high school ready to work. Leader Daniels specifically mentioned creating pathways for current students into the teaching profession to address the recruitment and retention of teachers. Other priorities included continuing to expand First Class Pre-K and an interest in exploring school funding reform.
During a sometimes tense discussion, Ms. Stephanie Bell, who has been on the State Board for 28 years, expressed frustration that Legislators do not seek the Board’s input on education legislation they are considering and that some laws they have passed have supplanted the Board’s authority to address issues that might arise with implementation. She said, “What has happened in the last 5-10 years, the Legislature is trying to do our job.” Finishing her comments, Ms. Bell said, “I’m begging you not to take more authority away from the School Board but to give it back.”
Leader Daniels responded that they are “not trying to do your job.” “I’m about outcomes,” he said. “So my district holds me accountable for making certain we are improving. If we are not moving in those areas and there is no plan…there are schools that were failing ten years ago and they are failing today. There’s been no improvement. So I can’t sit down as a legislator and allow this to continue unaddressed.”
Both the State Board and the Legislators shared broad agreement on the need for a focus on struggling schools and a desire to develop better communication between the State Board and the Legislature.
Ms. Tracie West thanked them for coming and committed to better communication by the SBOE on the ALSDE’s strategic plan and their priorities. Dr. Tonya Chestnut agreed and thanked them for their focus on the needs of struggling schools in her district. Dr. Reynolds announced that the Board would be joined by leaders from the Senate at next month’s work session.
2. UTeach Update: Dr. Lee Meadows, Executive Director of the Alabama STEM Council, came and spoke with the Board about the UTeach program rollout. UTeach is an initiative to prepare college STEM majors to become teachers. The UTeach program is a partnership between the Alabama Legislature, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, Alabama STEM Council, and UTeach Institute.
UTeach graduates are not traditional education majors; they are STEM majors that add a STEM education minor and a traditional Class B teaching certificate with no time added to their degree. Currently, in Alabama (from the existing UABTeach program), there have been 65 graduates, 58 of who are certified, and 41 who are currently teaching.
The program received $4.5 million in funding in the FY2023 ETF budget to expand UABTeach and start programs at other universities in the state. Seven universities across the state will be UTeach sites: Alabama A&M, Athens State, Auburn, AUM, South Alabama, West Alabama, and UAB (which already has an active program).
Dr. Meadows announced that the UTeach program in Alabama will create 250 new STEM teachers every year once fully implemented over the next four years. “We have always had a significant shortage of science teachers and math teachers.”
UTeach exists nationally at 56 universities in 23 states. 84% of UTeach graduates enter teaching, and 87% are still teaching 5 years later. 68% of UTeach graduates choose to go to low-income schools. This is one of a number of efforts funded by the Alabama Legislature to address the teacher shortage in the state, especially the shortage of STEM teachers. According to their fall 2019 report, UTeach graduates are proven to stay in the classroom longer and increase their students’ learning, even though UTeach costs less than other programs. Investments in proven programs that increase the quality of the teacher pipeline and provide Alabama students with a great STEM education are a great step that colleges and universities can take to better Alabama’s current and future workforce.
3. ELA Textbook and Core Reading Program Adoption, K-3: The Board discussed a resolution to approve the recommendations of the State Textbook Committee for Adoption of Textbooks for English Language Arts, Grades K-3.
The Board received recommendations for textbook adoption for English Language Arts, Grades K-3 from the ELA State Textbook Committee. This includes recommended comprehensive Core Reading Programs that have also been reviewed by the Alabama Literacy Task Force to ensure those programs fully meet the requirements of the Alabama Literacy Act.
The Board had previously received recommendations from the ELA Textbook Committee last year but chose to only approve the recommendations for Grades 4-12 at the time. Due to a technical snafu, the recommendations for Grade K-3 Core Reading Programs only included one option because the second option that had been recommended was too old by law. The Board did not want to have a list with only one option. So, the Textbook Committee and the Literacy Task Force were asked to undergo a new review process. This new recommendation includes multiple options, according to Dr. Mackey. By law, the names of vendors cannot be released until the Board votes on the recommendation, so the options are not public yet.
Once the list is approved by the Board, the local districts have the authority to pick what is best for them. Dr. Mackey stated that many local superintendents are very anxious to have this list approved so they can make purchases for core reading programs.
The Board plans to vote on the recommendations at their March meeting unless a majority of board members express concern about moving forward.
4. First Grade Readiness and Alternative Teacher Preparation Policy Changes: During the meeting, the Board announced its intent to adopt a change to the administrative code that would align faculty requirements for CAEP-accredited traditional teacher preparation programs with those of alternative teacher preparation organizations.
During the work session, the board discussed next month’s vote to permanently adopt new rules on First Grade Readiness and Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations. The First Grade Readiness rule would require local school boards to create and implement their own policies to ensure that students enrolling in first grade have successfully completed KindergartenBoar or have the foundational skills to be successful. The vote next month will be on the policy as written here.
The new rule on Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations is required by law and would allow alternative teacher preparation programs to come to Alabama. The Board did not discuss the measures about these programs.
To see the full February Board Meeting and Work Session agendas, click here.
The Alabama State Board of Education usually meets on the second Thursday of each month to discuss important policies, procedures, and changes for Alabama’s K-12 public schools. The Board takes official action during their monthly meeting and then follows up with a Work Session to get updates and discuss future action that will be voted on at the next board meeting. You can watch them live and see old meetings here.
Contact Your Board Member:
Have feedback on any of the above items – or anything else? Contact your state school board member using the resources below:
-To contact your State Board of Education Member, click here.
-To find out which district you live and/or teach in, click here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your address in the “Polling Place Search” box. Once entered, it will take you to a page that shows your polling place and the districts you live in.
-To view a map of the state school board districts, click here.